Since she first melted our hearts in winning Season 5 of the Food Network Star, I’ve been a big fan of my next Inspiring Interview guest! She is a celebrity chef, television host, best-selling author, speaker, writer and mom of four.
Okay, let’s get right to the interview!
Hilary: Hi Melissa! Can you tell us about your background and your career path?
Melissa: I worked in finance and strategic planning after getting my MBA in 1993, and then in 2006 I became a stay at home mom. In 2009, I started my career as an on-air host for Food Network.
Hilary: How does your Christian faith influenced the path of your career?
Melissa: My faith drives everything in my career. It is both the “why” and the “how” of my life.
Hilary: I love that! And I absolutely love what you’ve said about writing your new book, Tasting Grace. “Tasting Grace is the book that no one asked me to write. No one but my soul, and so my soul is truly in it.” What inspired you to write Tasting Grace?
Melissa: I found myself in a whirlwind of mixed messages around food. And when I don’t know which end is up, I know I need to fix my eyes on something solid, and that something for me is God. I knew what society was saying about food, but I wondered, really, what does God have to say about food. And that question is what led me to the reading, praying and marinating in God’s word about food that eventually led to Tasting Grace.
Hilary: Such a beautiful and unique story. Your Tasting Grace Women’s Retreat was held in February 2020. Do you have an idea of when the next retreat may be?
Melissa: Tasting Grace Retreat was one of the highlights of not just my career, but of my life. These women came together as strangers one weekend, and left as deep sisters. We still get together via zoom these days. As soon as I can figure out how to do a retreat in this new world, we will have another. So much connection happened through food that weekend.
Hilary: That sounds amazing and I would love to attend sometime! How much did life change after winning Season 5 of Food Network Star?
Melissa: The biggest change was actually becoming a working parent, which millions of people are doing, so it’s good to know I wasn’t alone.
Hilary: Your four daughters are absolutely gorgeous! I can only imagine how much your family inspires you in your work?
Melissa: To be really transparent, my family is about a hundred times more important to me than any job could ever be. I love my work, and it comes from the heart of me, which is 100% filled with my family.
Hilary: You and your husband, Philippe met in Paris (or near Paris)? Can you tell us about how and where you met?
Melissa: We met through mutual friends when I was sent to work at Disneyland Paris. We fell in love, were married in his village in the south of France, and we stayed in Paris for four years.
Hilary: Well, that’s a really lovely story. Do you have any tips for balancing a successful career, your beautiful family, and all of the other aspects of life that are important to you?
Melissa: I’m a horrible multitasker. So for me, compartmentalizing really helps with balancing work and family. When I’m working, I’m all in. I go to bed early when I travel, eat well, exercise and make sure that 100% of my attention is focused on the client or project. When I’m with my kids, the phone is down, and emails simply have to wait to be answered. I feel like I am at my best when I do one or the other, rather than try to multitask doing both.
Hilary: That’s great advice and I’m going to remember it. I love that you have a business and finance background, including an MBA. How has your background influenced your life?
Melissa: My business background absolutely informs my work, and in fact I credit my winning Food Network Star to my background in strategic planning.
Hilary: Your show, Ten Dollar Dinners on Food Network is such a wonderful concept! What advice would you give to someone who is trying to feed a family well, while staying on a budget?
Melissa: Be flexible, eat more produce, and buy what’s in season.
Hilary: What tip would you give the reluctant home-cook who finds it difficult to create healthy, delicious means every evening?
Melissa: No need to memorize a million recipes. Start with a few flexible recipes that you can master easily and mix and match ingredients. For instance, I have what I call “4 Step Chicken.” It’s really a blueprint for making a thousand different chicken dishes, and even a beginning cook can master it!
Hilary: This question feels very basic, but I just have to ask! Can you tell us what is your very favorite thing to eat?
Melissa: Grilled fish, fresh coleslaw and sauteed potatoes.
Hilary: Sounds delicious! Do you have any secrets for making something really healthy taste decadently delicious?
Melissa: Yes. Fall in love with your health and how healthy foods make you feel. Taste buds change when you really pay attention to how something makes you feel.
Hilary: What has been the most challenging aspect of the quarantine period for you? How are you managing to stay positive and inspired during this time?
Melissa: My daughter Margaux had open heart surgery a few weeks ago, so we are having to keep a very tight quarantine. The hardest part is watching the kids miss their friends so much, especially Margaux who I think could really benefit from “real life” and school routine again. But, I am a fierce believer in doing whatever we can to save lives, so knowing it is the best way we can help right now makes the quarantine easier.
Hilary: That truly puts things into perspective. Thank you so much for sharing that with us! And thank you for such genuine answers and advice. It’s been wonderful chatting with you!
To learn more about the truly amazing Melissa d’Arabian, check out the links below!
Inspiring Interviews Series